In the 19th century, St. Margaret’s Church in Chipstead was dominated by two Rectors, the Peter Aubertins, father and son, whose combined tenure lasted over 80 years and resulted in significant restoration and enhancement to the church structure.
During the second half on the 18th century. the rector at St. Margaret’s was Revd. John Griffiths, who held the living for 55 years between 1753 and 1808. Griffiths was also Rector of Sanderstead where he lived, and during his time at Chipstead, appeared to gain a reputation as an absentee Rector, showing little interest in the maintenance of the church.
The condition of the church deteriorated considerably during Griffiths’ long tenure and fell into a state of neglect. The south transept had burnt down in the 17th century and many repairs were needed to the church fabric.
A 1794 etching of the south west elevation of the church by Penelope Fanshaw, 1764 – 1833, daughter of John Fanshaw of Shabden. It clearly shows the dilapidated state of the building and the collapsed south transept with a tree growing in the vacated space
Another hand coloured etching of the south elevation c1790. The wooded land to the right of the picture originally belonged to Laing family of Court Lodge on Church Green; they gifted the land to the church, which was subsequently developed as an extension to the churchyard.
Revd. Peter Aubertin the Elder
Revd Peter Aubertin the elder, 1774 – 1861. Rector at St. Margaret’s 1808 – 1861
Peter Aubertin the elder was born about 1774 and, as a child, lived in Yewlands, Banstead. His father (also a Peter) was a wealthy City merchant of Swiss extraction. The Aubertins were of Huguenot descent. He attended St. John’s College Cambridge, was ordained as a deacon in 1798 and as a priest in 1799.
He married Henrietta Lambert, daughter of Daniel Lambert who lived at Well House in Banstead. They had at least five children. Three died young – Ann (1810 – 1827), Daniel (1813 - 1830) and Mary (1822 – 1823). Two had long lives – Peter (who was to replace him as Rector at St. Margaret’s) and Charlotte. In 1906 Charlotte funded the construction of the Peter Aubertin Hall in Elmore Road.
The Peter Aubertin Hall, a gift to the church and village from Charlotte Aubertin. The hall has been in continuous use as a community centre and as a meeting place for the many clubs and societies in Chipstead for over 100 years
In 1808, at the invitation of Col. Hylton Jolliffe, the Lord of the Manor, Aubertin became Rector at St. Margaret’s, and was to remain in that post for 53 years until his death in 1861.
An 1821 sketch of the Aubertin family home at the Old Rectory in Mugswell, a 2 mile journey from the church.
During his time as Rector he restored his home at The Old Rectory in Mugswell, which for many years had been let as labourer’s cottages, and he carried out routine repairs to the church between 1809 and 1850. From 1827, however, a series of major improvements to the church were undertaken, with Aubertin acting as architect:
- in 1830 he raised the south wall of the church
- in 1852 he removed the singing gallery and installed an organ
- in 1855 he rebuilt the south transept, using the north transept as a model, and re-roofed the nave
- in 1857 he thoroughly restored the dilapidated chancel. The decayed roof was entirely removed and re-roofed with the present oak timbers from his glebeland in Mugswell
After the death of his wife, Henrietta, it appears that he was cared for by his daughter, Charlotte. Peter Aubertin died in 1861 and was buried in an enclosure under the south wall of the chancel.
Revd. Peter Aubertin the Younger
Revd Peter Aubertin the younger, 1811 – 1891. Rector at St. Margaret’s 1861 – 1889
Peter Aubertin the younger was born at the family home in the Old Rectory, Mugswell in 1811. He was educated at Charterhouse (which was then located in London) and Wadham College, Oxford. He was ordained as a deacon in 1837 and as a priest in 1838.
His first appointment was as Curate to St John’s in New Alresford, Hampshire, during the early 1840s. While there he met Mary Eliza Dunn, the only child of John and Betty Dunn, a wealthy family who lived at The Weir House in nearby Old Alresford. Aubertin married Mary in 1842. Later, when John Dunn died in in 1868, Mary inherited the estate which automatically reverted to her husband.
Aubertin’s next appointment was as Vicar at the parish of Froyle near Alton, about 15 miles from New Alresford.
The Weir House on Abbotstone Road in Old Alresford, Hampshire
Mary Eliza Aubertin gave birth to five children, two girls and three boys. It was to be her elder surviving son, Peter, a Major in the 2nd Dragoon Guards, who inherited The Weir House Estate in 1891 upon the death of his father.
In 1861, at the invitation of Sir William Jolliffe, the Lord of the Manor, Aubertin took over from his father as Rector at St. Margaret’s. During his extensive period in this post he oversaw further restoration work on the church with Richard Norman Shaw as architect.
In 1883 a major development took place when the church was considerably enlarged by the addition of a north aisle. Stained-glass was added to the new north windows and new pews were installed. The original north wall incorporated an ancient Norman door from about 1175. The wall was carefully dismantled and the fine outer door portal reconstructed, the doorway being sealed with flints.
St. Margaret’s nave looking towards the west door, before the 1883 restoration under the tenure of Revd. Peter Aubertin the younger. The restoration added an additional north aisle by dismantling and relocating the north wall at the right of the picture.
St. Margaret’s north wall before the 1883 restoration showing the ancient Norman north door. To the left of the door is the monument to the Revd. John Tattersall who was Rector from 1718 to 1740. The monument was relocated on the new north wall.
An 1870 photograph of the north door from the outside, before the 1883 restoration. Clearly shown is the fine Norman stone portal from about 1175, featuring a “zig-zag” sculpture. The portal was relocated in the new north wall and the door opening sealed with flints. The stone sculpture appears to have weathered well for its first 700 years, but has badly deteriorated over the succeeding 150 years.
The new north aisle was funded by John G Cattley of Shabden, who had been funding other improvements to the church over many years. The Cattley family also maintained the north transept on the understanding that it was for the exclusive use of the Cattley family and servants. This practice was continued by succeeding occupants of Shabden until 1937.
The interior of St. Margaret’s today, looking towards the altar, showing the north aisle at the left of the picture
Aubertin and his wife were fascinated by stained glass. While his father was still Rector, they painted the glass for the east window at St. Margaret’s which has the inscription
‘Designed, executed and leaded by Peter Aubertin and Mary Eliza, his wife AD.1851’.
Aubertin and his wife also collected fragments of medieval glass from other churches and the three central figures in St. Margaret’s east window are surrounded by a jigsaw of ancient fragments, some dating back to the fourteenth century. He also worked on the lancets in the south transept, filling them with imitation thirteenth century Grisaille glass.
Mary Eliza died in 1882 and Peter Aubertin appeared to lead a rather lonely life at the Old Rectory. He resigned the Living in 1889 to spend his retirement at Tillington near Petworth. The following are extracts from a letter dated 10th February 1889 to his former parishioners:
My very dear friends,
There was a time when the thought of ending my days anywhere but at Chipstead had never once crossed my mind; – The Old Rectory had been my Birthplace – It had been the home of my Manhood and Ministry; and therein I had all along hoped that I might breathe my last. My very dear Old Father (as you know) never left you. My hope, then, was not unreasonable …..
But a lot so happy has not been ordained for me – already the home of my ministry knoweth me no more. A sudden, scarcely expected illness, the natural result of a lonely life and of fast approaching Age rendered the resignation of the Living peremptory – I had no unmarried daughter at liberty to live with me and comfort me, as was the case with my Old Father ….. and the decision I took in accordance with the wishes of my loving children, was, no doubt, the right one, or I should never, never, have resigned …..
May God’s Blessing rest upon you all; may it still rest upon the Old Parish, which has ever been well Cared for, and such shall be my Constant Prayer until my Life’s end –
Peter Aubertin died in 1891. He is buried, alongside his wife and his parents, in the Aubertin enclosure under the south wall of the chancel. The Aubertin gravesite was obliterated by the construction of the modern vestry in the 1980s.
Historian CE Pringle suggests that the demise of the Aubertins brought to an end the social gulf between clergy, gentry and ordinary parishioners.
St. Margaret’s Church today, whose impressive appearance owes much to the Aubertins, father and son
This article is based upon “The Revd. Peter Aubertin, M.A.”, August 1954, by Hugh Scott-Willey, FRIBA, 1885 – 1970, who was a church warden at St. Margaret’s and architect for the war memorial on Church Green.
Barry Pepper - December 2020